Tag Archives: righteousness

Same Words Different Meanings

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Christianity is a culture with many terms that are used almost exclusively within that culture.  When was the last time you heard the word propitiation used outside a church context (or inside one for that matter)? We often talk about righteousness and grace and justification.  Those words are good English words, but their meaning inside church culture holds great significance.  Outside that culture, however, these words are seldom used.  

We have other words that we use commonly but we’ve given them a different definition than their original intent.  

The term “pastor” is used nowadays to refer to anyone who is in a preaching role in a church.  Usually the pastor is the “head” of that branch of the church.  The bible doesn’t use this term this way.  In fact, I’m surprised that the bible includes this term at all.  It is only used once in English translations and the Greek word that it is translated from is always translated as “shepherd” in the other instances it is used in the New Testament.  A pastor is supposed to be one of a group of shepherds or elders of a church.  

Pastor is a term the church of Christ has tried to avoid for many years, but culture keeps using that term in its new definition, so many churches are giving up on fighting this original definition.  The original definition of “pastor” is being lost on this generation.

There are a couple other terms we use commonly in church culture that we gave up on a long time ago.  We don’t even readily argue for the perpetuation of the original meaning anymore.  

The first is “church”. 

I recently had the blessing of serving with a friend of mine who is living in a missional community with the intention of driving the darkness out of the city in which they live.  They live together – Christians in common – being the church in community.  

At this service opportunity a teenager asked my friend if they all attended church together.  My friend looked bewildered and said, “yes, this is it.” 

He was bewildered because he was living in the biblical definition of the word “ekklesia” that many translations interpret as “church”. Church didn’t become a building until after the Catholic church began to build buildings around holy places as shrines for worship. The english word, “church”, comes from a German word that was used to signify such buildings.  Ekklesia, on the other hand, denotes community.  It is the assembly of saints in every place.  It is the people – not the place, and definitely not a denomination.

The other term is “ministry”.

This same teen asked my friend where they did ministry.  This was still in the context of the previous question about where they attended “worship” (another term that has been redefined throughout the years). My friend looked around again and said “we do ministry by living.”

Christians often think of ministry as a program of the church where they attend where people who have something to offer provide goods or services to those “less fortunate”. This cannot be further from the biblical idea.  Ministry wasn’t intended to be relegated to a specific activity.  Ministry is an outpouring of love to those living all around us.  Ministry is seeing others as equals and treating them as such even if they are drug addicts and prostitutes.  Ministry isn’t enabling dependence on a welfare-like activity.  Ministry is living with those the world sees as less fortunate and encouraging them and respecting them and expecting the same from them.  It’s not a top-down kind of mentality; it is an equality mentality.  Ministry doesn’t feed the poor; it frees the poor.

If you’re reading this chances are you are part of a church that does ministry.  Read the book of Acts.   See how the church functioned.  Imagine what the world would be like if we were actively battling the forces of evil in the spiritual realms while living together in community without need for all the pomp and circumstance.  Could this really be what we are called to? 

This group that my friend is involved with has been actively battling the darkness for at least five years now, and they now have watched Jesus drive the darkness out of two whole neighborhoods that were the most dangerous places in their city.  They are now actively pursuing the darkness into a third neighborhood.  Even the police recommend they don’t follow, but they do anyway – family and all.  God continues to scatter the darkness as the light and salt of Jesus is spread in strongholds of the enemy.  

This isn’t just church talk.  This is really happening.  The book of Acts doesn’t have to be a historical document.  It can also be a playbook for how to live for Christ today, but that would require us to give up on fear and be filled with an unquenchable love and desire to follow the Holy Spirit’s guiding.  It would also require us to remember the original meanings of so many biblical ideas.  It would require a restoration of first-century discipleship. I’m praying for a generation to rise up and change the world, and the generation I’m praying for is mine.  Won’t you join me?

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Fear is easy; Love is hard

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You may be reading this article before Valentines Day. You may be reading it on or after Valentines Day. In any case, this article is NOT about Valentines Day. But it is about love.

When we talk about what it means to be a Christian, the most basic answer is love. The two laws of Christianity are love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). When mentioning faith, hope, and love, the apostle, Paul, said that the greatest of these three is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

The problem with love is that we aren’t very good at it, and therefore we aren’t very good at the one thing that should define us as Christians. Sure, we love people. We have deep feelings for those we love, but love is not actually those feelings. In fact, you can love without any feeling at all. Love is not an emotion. Love is a choice.

The reason we aren’t very good at love is that we are raised in a culture that teaches us that the world really should revolve around us. Every thing should cater to our whim, so we invent microwaves and fast food restaurants because we deserve to have what we want when we want it. As children we are given things we want because others love us, but the constant showering of love creates a type of narcissism that places us at the center of our own universe. We aren’t very good at love because we are selfish.

We also aren’t very good at love because we are afraid. There is much hurt and betrayal in our culture, and we don’t want to fall victim to that hurt. Maybe you’ve been hurt in your past so you’ve built up walls of protection out of fear of being hurt again. Jason Gray sings a song with the lyrics “Fear is easy. Love is hard.” I tend to agree.

So, we are supposed to love, but we find that love is difficult. How can we overcome that? It begins with an understanding of what love is and isn’t. Love is a choice. It is not an emotion. 1 Corinthians 13 says love is patient, kind, not envious, not proud, doesn’t boast, not rude, not hot tempered, doesn’t hold a grudge, doesn’t gloat, looks for truth, is long suffering, is trusting, finds hope in all circumstances, and is not fleeting or fickle.

Oh, and I forgot one. Love isn’t selfish.

I’m selfish, and so until I die to the idea that my desires come first I cannot love anyone – not even my wife. When we are afraid it is because of our self focus. That is what causes us to retaliate and feel the need for anger and frustration. Love is none of those things because love has no needs for itself. Love is selfless.

Look at Jesus. He is the perfect example of love. What did he ever do that was self-seeking? Nothing. He took the role of a servant though he was ruler and creator of all. He died for you although you had done nothing for him. He offers you sinless perfection while all you can offer in return is broken sinfulness. His love for you is not dependent on you. His love for you comes from a choice, as your creator, to love you selflessly despite all you have done to reject him.

If we love like that we will be hurt. We will be cheated. We will be taken advantage of. But if we love like that non of it will matter because we will have died to self, so there’s nothing left for them to kill.

Fear is easy. Love is hard. But it is totally worth it. Love is how we will change the world. Love is how God intends to bring us peace and joy and hope and forgiveness and all the things we truly long for in ourselves.

Choose love.


And You Were Wondering Why?

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I have three children, and as they grow up it is fascinating to watch them learn about the world around them. Sometimes it’s downright hilarious. So many of the things they do as they learn could easily be avoided, but for the sake of learning I allow them to experience certain things.

For example, my son might want to open a certain door in a funny way – again, he’s experimenting with his hands and his body. I warn him that if he does it THAT way he’ll hurt himself. Guess what he does. He does it anyway, and he gets hurt. That part isn’t funny.

The part that is funny is that when he gets hurt, he looks up at me with this bewildered look as if it were my fault that he got hurt. It wasn’t my fault. I tried to warn him. I tried to provide him with the skills he needed to make the right decision and avoid the pain, but he didn’t listen, so he suffered the consequences.

While I may snicker at the experiences of my son or daughter, I have to remember that we are not much better than they are. We still struggle with the same desires and temptations. Or temptations may be bigger and hold greater consequences, but underneath we suffer from the same selfishness.

I know I do it. I want to be in control of my own life. Don’t tell me what to do…I’ll figure it out.

It’s because of this natural reaction in me that I respond to God the way I do.

Do you realize that God has offered the knowledge of how to live in such a way that you have the best life possible? It’s all right there in the bible. We claim to be followers of Christ, but our lives are a mess, and we blame God or question Him about it. We do the same thing my son does to me. We refuse to listen, and then we wonder why God let the bad stuff happen.

The other day, I was listening to Don McLaughlin. He is a great speaker with many wonderful insights into the Christian life. His topic was the section of Ephesians 6 that talks about the armor of God. What he said was totally relevant to all of us.

Basically, he showed us that God has given us this armor in Ephesians 6, but so many times we want to try to live our life our way without putting on the armor. Then, things don’t work out, and we look to God for someone else to blame, when it was our fault all along.

Look at the armor: salvation, righteousness, truth, the good news of peace, faith, the Spirit through the word of God, and prayer. If we have all these things – if we pursue them, then the other things that happen in our lives will work so much better.

We cannot control how other people act, but we can control how we live our lives among those who live theirs.

I want to live with the armor on, because, truly, if you don’t have on the armor, you’ve already been taken a prisoner of war by God’s enemy.

So may you join with me in suiting up. May we begin the fight in our lives, and may the light of God’s presence be evident in us as we vanquish all the flaming arrows of the evil one through the power of God.

If you want to talk more about this armor beginning even with that helmet of salvation, then please contact me at jddobbs@verizon.net or at my office at 245-1611. If you’d like to simply comment on this article, you can do so at www.mrdobbs.org.

God bless you, and may we see victory as we allow God to work in and through us!


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